Ruhee-a character

This is my attempt to start on a new story. Due to writer’s block and much needed time to discover new styles, ‘He who summoned the magpie robin’ story needs to take a rest. Writing female characters have always been a bit of a challenge.

And Happy Independence day everyone. Enjoy!
– Nirjhor Barua
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Ruhee was the independent type. Being raised as the only daughter, without a mother, she became the free spirited. She needed no one, except her father of course and that to be very rarely. When she was young she would wear boy clothes and bully the boys in her school. And when she had her first period at the age of eleven, she went up to her father who was reading a V.S Naipal novel, Baba I am bleeding, she said, down there. Her father like always and especially in this case could offer her no help and the neighbour-aunt was summoned to the rescue. Much to everyone else’s annoyance, especially her dead mother’s sister who thought her father was doing a poor job at raising her, she took karate lessons in a local dojo with the name Flying Friends Karate School. She learned the Shotokan Karate style, the most common one around, and when her father asked why she was kicking a sand filled sack around, hung from the empty fan-hooks on the ceiling, this is self defence, she replied, what if someone wants to rape me when you are not there? Her father had no argument to refute her. I keep telling my sensei, I think I should reach black belt soon, she said and the itch-knee-sun-see punches would continue on the poor lifeless sack. She, still in her orange belt, never cared that the style of martial arts Bruce Lee performed in his movies—that she would play during her training sessions—was very different from the one she was learning. All that mattered to her twelve tear old self was the kiba-dachi, punches and the roundhouse kicks. She once spent the entire evening going about the house in a horse stance. The Enter the Dragon tape soon worn out and was replaced with Jackie Chan CDs.
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She grew older, blooming into a beautiful woman; her bronze-coloured shiny skin gleamed against the sun, as she went about places, proudly, with a confident walk. Once she reached the age of sixteen she declared she wanted to commute alone. No Baba-escorted rickshaw rides anymore. Her father, who did not know what he was doing wrong all this time, complied. Who wanted to argue with a blue-belt Karateka. She never got to reach her destined black-belt; growing breasts that had a mind of their own and wanting to look feminine had made it difficult for her to pursue her Shotokan-Bruce-Lee-dreams. She in this case admitted defeat. If her mother was alive, she thought, then her mother could have bought her the bras she needed, maybe, maybe then she could continue her flying kicks. As usual, Baba in the growing-girls-department was pretty useless.

While time passed and the seasons came, she soon learnt it was difficult for her travel alone, for any woman for that matter. The harassment and lewd stares were common place. In crowded buses, as the hands would brush against her rear, not the accidents rather the intentional ones, where some stroked lightly, some with impending rigorousness, she would at most times feel disgusted, feel her space being violated, molested. The invasion of hands on her posterior, working their way up her butt-cheeks, sent fight or flight signals to her brain and when she turned around to protest, to knee-kick the groin area or two, the man would be gone it seemed, lost amongst others in the crowd and all the men around could have done it, all of them looked like it was possible for them to grope a woman. Other times though, the strong digits caressing her end sent chills up her spine, exciting her, making her almost wet, invoking feeling she hadn’t felt before. She would push against the hand, push against the quick pinches, push against the thumb digging into the cloth-covered-crevice. And then when she would turn around, this time too the man would be gone, the hand would be already retrieved, and all the men present, pushing against her in the crowd, looked like they would grope a woman. The hungry look on their faces told her so.

Even though with her Karate-chopping-takes-no-shit type attitude, her beauty was not lost on anyone. Her aunt, dead mother’s sister, would roll in with proposals once she hit eighteen—American citizen! Dubai resident! Cholo Cholo! Get your daughter married fast or she will elope with some no good penniless chap! Her father was not ready to lose Ruhee yet. To quieten her aunt she agreed to meet this suitor of hers, but to make it interesting and probably to scare him, she turned up in her old karate uniform, washed and neatly pressed with her precious blue belt tied in the waist. The suitor, a American green-card holder in the mission to pull her in with the American dream, got scared stiff, said sorry for wasting her time and left.    

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photo source: internet, Enter the dragon.

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Kaiser’s first love

An extract from “He who summoned the Magpie Robin” by Nirjhor Barua
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Then after two years another telegram had come were his father had expressed his wish for Kaiser to study in London. His mother wrote back saying: ‘Kaiser will go to England to study. But, he is not staying with you; not with you… I repeat… Not with you. He will go to a boarding school of my choice. I don’t want him to live with you and anywhere near your wife’. Thus, he went back to England and completed his A-Levels from Wellington College, Berkshire, in the year 1968, the year of the emergence of the great Led Zeppelin and the premier of 2001: The space odyssey. His time after that was spent in shuffling between home-made wine, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and a young girl of twenty-four–older than him– his first love. The girl, although spoilt with money, was educated and classy, and acted more mature than her age, some years or more, a girl with some trans-Atlantic American accent, an East coast one, not that it mattered. As lot of Americans did, she also went on the Europe trek, and ended up in Kings cross, to start from England. Where she posted an advertisement on the newsstand for a tour guide to take her places- All expenses paid.

With Kaiser stumbling upon the advertisement, having nothing to do, he applied; only a formal interview was taken in a Hotel-room in Camden town. With the girl, sitting primped-up and proper, business suit and skirt set, with reading glasses eyeing him and his resume in her hand. She put down the piece of paper and told him she would call and let him know, and called out ‘Next!’ as he was on his way out; there was no queue outside, he was the only applicant. He had waited by the phone the whole night, and she called, ‘Congrawhatevertulations kiddo, you got it.’ letting him know about his win amongst fierce competition. On enquiry or assurance about the payment and the method, she laughed and replied, ‘At the end of the month man, Cash. I keep my word you know. Daddy has the big bucks; I can do whatever I want.’ He could not say no to her, even if he wanted to. He did not need the money. He would have done it for free.

The girl had the pinkest of lips with the darkest of hairs and wore the jazziest of clothes, American style, flashy printed mini, large collared shirts tucked in with the collars unfolded, covering the bottom half of her ears. Her nose rings were similar to that of the Rajasthani water bearer or one of those East African tribes with a nose ring that dangled in front of the mouth. Her attire was loud, nothing close to a freak show, but it still was loud; it screamed for attention and got it as such. She looked like a new-age wizard, all gay and colourful. She on occasions could pass for a show-gypsy medicine woman that read palms and sold pregnancy charms on the streets of Soho. The girl, along with her tour guide went places, from Buckingham to the spooky columns of Stonehenge, she drank in it, drank in the bizarre that was England trying to put its prudish past behind, each swig quenching her thirst, wanting a little more. From spending copious amount of time together, the ‘professional’ relation had drifted towards intimacy. On one fateful train journey with her hands nonchalantly resting on his sleeping buttocks, as they slept in a compartment spooning each other, led to them having a session on the art of ‘making out’. Over the course of time, they would be in endless sessions of poem recitation, each poem ended with a kiss, then a wet smooch on each other’s neck. Shelley, Keats, Arnold and so on dribbled from their lips. After roaming around England, they took their duo-entourage down to France, France, l’exquise, France, the exquisite, France, the rainbow nation of the west. From Southampton to Normandy, they crossed the English Channel into France. They wanted to re-enact the Normandy invasion that had taken place some twenty-two odd years ago. This time they had no numbers, but only two of them. They did not land on a beach, but a port and had no guns, but love in their heart. It was no allied forces this time, but a duo for a fictive country called The ‘United Kingdom of Bengali America’, UKBA for short.

From Normandy to Rouen and finally they ended up in Paris, the cultural Capital of the world, the city for bohemian love. Paris soon became a slight disappointment. The city was overhyped, hyped to such a level that the beautiful city with its dirty right-side-driving roads, rude-cheese-eating inhabitants, cramped alleys of the immigrant-ghettos, boisterous cafes and the colourless Eiffel Tower could not save it from the disappointment it became. The city was expected more of. There was something less of in Paris, they did not know what of was it for sure, je ne sais quoi, he said,there was ‘something’ missing. By July the protests against the Gaulle had dimmed down and the city had come back to normal. They blamed their luck to be a little late for the ‘party’; it was not every day one experienced revolution and civil disobedience at hand. The hand-holding walks on the posh street of Champs-Elysees— just like the French resistance army marching after the liberation of Paris, they marched hand in hand, no Parisians to welcome them—, ‘French-kissing’ by the bank of Seine river, starting an argument with nearly getting stabbed on the city metro, were some of the things she crossed of first from her list one by one as they went along. On one fine evening the young male with his slightly older female lover sat on a hotel balcony with a bed sheet wrapped around them, looking up to the full-moon blurred amongst the clouds and city-smog, began telling each other stories of sexual escapades; she wanted to try new things, new ways to tickle the libido, telling stories was one way. He hadn’t had many tales to tell, he was a younger man and a virgin not long ago. She on the other hand told him of the ways she courted the many boys she had been with. With some she was the gentlest of all, like caressing a flower, with others, she had yanked at them, tearing them from the branches with no mercy. With him though, she was different, she felt a connection, a connection on the intellectual level. He was not some thick headed good-for-nothing; he had a level of intellect her past lovers lacked, and most importantly he was exotic, caramel from the East. She wanted to be cruel to him though, so desperately wanted to leave him writhing in a hotel-room by leaving without saying a word. Attachment was a luxury a rich tourist like her could not afford. But for now, to hell with it, she said, Amour, l’amour au clair de lune de Paris—- Love, love in the moonlight of Paris. French-language had rubbed-off on to them. Paris did that to people. Only maybe the gondolas on the mucky Venetian waters could top the romance of this place.

Life of poetic English summers, French cafe existentialist intellectualism, and pebbled Brighton beaches with mixed-race lovemaking soon ended. Her plan to bathe in the river Danube never materialised. In an act of defiance and young angst, the American girl had mailed her father some pictures, pictures of her, bikini-clad in the beach, with a topless Mowgli, out of the Jungle Book, in her arms. America was still in a state of hangover, still trying to hold on to its drunken times of mad racism; Martin Luther king’s untimely death had not been very long ago. Her father was far from happy, even if his daughter had the ‘Godlike-Groovy-Ghandi’ in her arms, he said, it was not for his baby girl, brown as a colour was still too dark. As a result the father froze his daughter’s cash flow by not sending her money anymore, forcing her to return. No money, no Europe, no ‘Aladdin’ in her arms. It was a summer fling, after which she was gone, back to the US of A.

As for Kaiser, it was not for him either; his love life amongst the fading beat generation had drained him off the English experience. For him, it was Bengal calling. Like the romantic poet Jibanananda Das had said, he would say to his mother on the eve of his return.

                               I have seen the face of Bengal, so I refrained from searching the beauty of the world. 

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Unusual Nothingness

An extract from He Who Summoned the Magpie Robin by Nirjhor Barua

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Nothing

In the midst of all nothingness, Kaiser Afzal walked. He insisted in being awake, trying to find the meaning of this sudden discovery of himself here. He walked not on clouds or anything, but that he walked on nothing, zero-null-void. His footsteps falling on nothing, material ground to provide an opposite force on him was absent; Newton was silently absent. If he had been in outer space, he was sure he would have floated around with the vomit from him being sick in this unusual-ness, sick-globs  slapping him in the face every now and then. Gravity was working mysteriously, yet he was not falling through into the nothingness that he did not bring upon himself, a slip and he might into the light-year long fall. After he strolled around for a bit, not being able to see nothing but black all around in his point of view, it came back to him. He had seen such dream elsewhere, some other time before. He realized: if the others were dreams, this must be too. He did not know how to pinch himself awake from this nightmare.

A melody suddenly ‘floated’ to his ear, darkness faded and was gone soon, but the light around him gave him nothing to see. The sound got slowly stronger and was clearly audible with every moment. Someone was mouthing the notes right beside his ear after a while. His counter-part, that he could not see, sang to him in rhymes, words that echoed in his brain, a hymn for no deity.

“What do we do dear? O Mother!

Give us a fair fight.

A savior and a Brother

We need him, he who, he who calls

When the devil tear the birds

O my Mother…”

 

From nothingness he came and to it he returned.

 

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